By Fayette Fox, Jaunty's Writer and Community Manager
"Public speaking used to make me really nervous," Jaunty graduate Ashmi Pathela says. She was good at sounding confident, but had to work to hide her nervousness during any presentation.
Ashmi's first language is Japanese, and though she moved from Japan to the States when she was only five, she always felt pressure to speak well and blend in with her peers. Don't stumble over your words. Whether a product of her culture or just her personality, that voice in her head was always getting in the way.
"This year, I've been focusing on personal development," Ashmi says. As a Senior Marketing Manager at an activities and events software company, she felt the best way to develop her leadership skills was to improve her social intelligence. She attended a free Jaunty workshop and saw the six-week course as a great way to build deeper connections with peers, both personally and professionally.
"Approaching strangers is easy for me if it's at an event, like a party or for networking. But approaching someone on the street in broad daylight without having a reason is super challenging." During the course, Ashmi had lots of opportunities to practice overcoming those initial hesitations, and a funny thing happened. When she started approaching and introducing herself to new people, she noticed more people started approaching her too. Maybe she was holding herself differently. Or perhaps she was being more present and noticing more people around her. Either way, the world got a little smaller once she got out of her own head.
Ashmi especially enjoyed Jaunty's segment on humor. Half Japanese and half Indian, Ashmi says, "Japanese people don't use sarcasm or dry humor that freely, including my close family members. Since I grew up without it, it was always hard for me to pick up."
Jaunty's class on humor breaks down different elements of high status humor and explains the science behind it. Ashmi loved trying it out and seeing it work. Now, she looks for ways to be more playful in her daily life, especially through language. Ashmi feels humor is a wonderful way to build rapport with people and "laugh along with the world."
And how about public speaking? At a recent annual off-site, Ashmi presented in front of her entire company. Instead of focusing on her nerves, she thought about the value she was delivering to her colleagues. She used many of her Jaunty skills like slowing down, remembering to pause, and projecting - and it was the most confident she's ever been. "It was the first time I didn't have to hide any nervousness, because I felt confident inside." Afterwards, people came up and complimented her on her speech.
Ashmi feels anyone can benefit from Jaunty. "It's not often that people make the time or effort to invest in themselves. Jaunty can really impact your personal interactions, confidence level, and how you present yourself to the world. I've had so many more meaningful connections by learning how to slow down and really listen." Indeed, Ashmi feels her new-found social intelligence is helping her "build closer relationships with others by living a more present life."
This blog was originally published in Jaunty's September newsletter.
By Eric Waisman
When you own it, some strangeness can impress and intrigue.
Look around you. Most people do their best to conform and fit in...like it's a good thing. But when it comes to being memorable or attractive, blending in spells certain death.
When I studied abroad in Israel, I joined a group of 500 students from all over the world, all excited to establish our places socially. In the first few days, cliques formed and a few beautiful, alpha females and loud, good-looking alpha males, started rising to the top of the social hierarchy. When the alphas got together, they wore tight shirts and used very loud (sometimes drunk) voices. Meanwhile I tried to meet people across all different groups to see who I liked.
I had accidentally enrolled in a Hebrew language class that was way too advanced for me. Instead of learning basic words, this class was already working on advanced storytelling. I felt like an alien. I ended up saying really weird phrases, but owning the fact that I probably sounded ridiculous. This may have come off as independent and creative, I have no idea. Interestingly, I started getting a lot of attention from the other students.
On the weekends, I sometimes disappeared from the group as my cousins showed me around Israel. As I got immersed in the culture, I started dressing, talking, eating, and acting like Israelis. I'd come back to the group, tanned and full of great stories. They listened, eager as I shared tips about the best hotspots around us. I was unknowingly leading, and I started holding very strong eye contact, which Israelis are accustomed to. For an unknown reason I also started to use darker humor.
I quickly realized that almost everyone wanted to hang out with me, including the alpha females. I wasn't trying to impress anyone. I was just exploring, experimenting, and doing what was interesting to me. It turned out my being a bit different was interesting to a lot of other people too.
Think back on some of your first few weeks at school while you were growing up. How did you establish yourself socially? What would you do now to either be yourself or try to fit in? Think about the kids you admired in your schools and what they did to stand out. Now I urge you to celebrate your quirks rather than hide them. Have fun expanding and exploiting what is uniquely you. Now, go and be your weird self.
By Adrian Robinson, Jaunty graduate
What is a social economic immigrant? How can someone born in a country be unaware of its social norms, cues, and customs? Where do you learn these social skills?
I was born in Washington, DC. You might be picturing the US Capitol, the White House, and the Monument. Unfortunately, I was not born in this part of DC. Imagine a neighborhood rife with drugs and violence. As a result, social interactions were driven by people suffering from anger and depression. People were trust-averse and therefore unable to fully emotionally invest in social interactions.
I attended urban public schools until I entered the University of Maryland. Suddenly I realized my upbringing hadn't prepared me to interact with conventional society. I was able to navigate academic and professional interactions, but socially I could be awkward. My sophomore year, I was eating dinner with floormates in the cafeteria, when one of them reached over my plate to grab the salt shaker. In my old neighborhood, reaching over someone's food is a sign of disrespect and I responded with a confrontational, "What's up?" Everyone at the table was shocked. It was clear that I had overreacted. It did not feel good.
My sense of humor turned out to be my saving grace in college. After graduating, I interned on Capitol Hill and performed stand up comedy. I moved to Colorado to work on the Obama 2012 campaign, where I loved interacting with campaign staff, volunteers, and voters. The campaign was the first time I felt like a member of a social community, not a visitor. After helping to organize the inauguration, I moved to San Francisco. Suddenly I couldn't hide my social awkwardness behind politics and public policy, so I hid behind business and technology.
My professional life excelled while my social life failed. I needed to change. I researched social intelligence and discovered Jaunty. I attended the free workshop and signed up for private coaching which was a better fit for my schedule than the six-week course. Each session felt empowering, as Eric coached me on conversational agility, body language, and touch. Immediately, I was able to connect with people on a social level. Complete strangers from coffee shops and bookstores invited me to their parties and social events. The social dynamic of my existing relationships expanded too. I felt like a member of a community again, but my community was not limited to political thinkers.
Wanting to test my social progress, last September I traveled to Portland, OR for a week. It was a birthday gift to myself in the form of a social challenge: to visit a new city and use my social skills to find fun activities. I spent my days approaching strangers to find the best places to eat, drink, and party. On my birthday, I met some local artists in a bar who invited me to their art show, a tribute to the 20th anniversary of The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Ready to Die" album, one of my all time favorite albums. The event was the best birthday gift and the trip was the best week of my life. I avoided social awkwardness without using politics or business talk as a crutch. After returning from Portland, I felt like an immigrant who was awarded his green card.